By Ted Fleming
It’s hard to say it is a must-win game in Week 2 but for the Panthers and Saints, going 0-2 is not an option. Carolina may need it more because it would be two straight losses to a divisional foe. New Orleans simple needs a victory to take their minds off all the other distractions. As the Saint lick their wounds, Carolina has a true opportunity to get back on track as the squad is looking strong.
OUT – Wide Receiver Devery Henderson (concussion), Defensive End Turk McBride (ankle), Cornerback Johnny Patrick (thigh)
QUESTIONABLE – Cornerback Jabari Greer (groin), Linebacker Scott Shanle (knee)
Henderson, McBride and Patrick did not practice all week. Shanle was limited on Wednesday and Thursday but had full participation on Friday. Greer had full practice all week.
DOUBTFUL - Guard Mike Pollak (shoulder)
QUESTIONABLE – Wide Receiver Steve Smith (knee), Running Back Jonathan Stewart (ankle)
PROBABLE – Center Jeff Byers (knee), Defensive End Greg Hardy (illness), Linebacker Kenny Onatolu (not injury related)
Pollack did not participate in practice on Friday while Onatolu missed the entire week. Smith was limited all three days. Stewart had full practice Wednesday and Thursday but was limited on Friday. Byers was not practice limited all week. Hardy was out on Thursday but returned on Friday for a full practice.
The loss of Devery Henderson is a blow to the Saints offense after suffering a head injury, later called a concussion, in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Redskins. Even though he could possibly return in Week 3, quarterback Drew Brees has one less pair of hands to target although the New Orleans receiving corps could be one of the deepest, albeit somewhat unproven, in football.
McBride’s injury could be substantial because he backs up Will Smith who missed training camp and preseason games because of the Bounty Gate suspensions. Smith returned to the lineup in the opener when an arbitration panel overturned the suspension and was somewhat ineffective. If he should somehow have to leave the game, there could be a lot of position switching or asking second year pro Martez Wilson to step in. He is listed third on the depth chart.
With Patrick out and Jabari Greer questionable, the Saints are thin at corner and you can look for Panthers QB Cam Newton to exploit it.
On the Carolina side Polack’s doubtful status can be absorbed and it is good news that Stewart could see some action in this Week 2 matchup with a divisional rival. If there was something lacking in the season opening loss to the Buccaneers was a lack of a running game forcing Cam Newton to throw more than head coach Ron Rivera would have liked.
If Stewart sees a lot of snaps and both he and DeAngelo Williams have a productive day the Panthers could rack up some serious yardage - and points – against the Saints defense.
Smith, on the other hand, returned from a two week preseason absence due to a foot infection only to be clipped on the right knee during the loss in Tampa. He practiced with a brace and it is unknown how effective he will be on Sunday. Brandon LaFell, who had three catches for 65 yards and a touchdown in Week 1, may become more of a target for Newton.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.